Whitewashed or not: students discuss the lack of teacher diversity

Flipping+through+the+staff+pages+of+the+2017+yearbook%2C+only+eight+percent+of+faculty+members+are+people+of+color.+

Photo by Katie Spillman

Flipping through the staff pages of the 2017 yearbook, only eight percent of faculty members are people of color.

As the community discusses differences, bullying and tolerance, the issue of diversity of teachers compared to students has come to light.

“I think it’s not really about representation, I think it’s more about the culture. Not only are the teachers here less diverse, but [because] we live in West County, everything is very whitewashed,” senior Cheryl Ma said.

There is a lack of diverse teachers and teacher applicants across the country— not just in Parkway. However, Parkway is working to combat the national issue.

“Parkway is very committed to hiring diverse applicants because they see the value in diversity. I believe that when you bring in diverse applicants of diverse cultural backgrounds, it only enriches the learning experience for students,” business teacher Emanuel Young said.

Ma believes that the issue is not so much related to the teaching staff, but more so the students not being aware of the lack of diversity.

“It’s not just about including more people of color, it’s about the mentality of thinking that our school and staff is really diverse when in reality the majority is very clearly white,” Ma said.

Still, students like junior Todd Gibbs feels the school tries too hard to push the conversation about diversity.

“I think we are focusing too much on the diversity of teachers. I really don’t care about if my teachers are diverse or not. All I care about is that I get a quality education, the teacher upholds basic morals and knows what they are doing,” Gibbs said.

If you’re someone who is really close to your cultural roots, why would you want to teach at a place where everyone is very much not like that?”

— Cheryl Ma

According to Parkway’s demographic data from the 2016-2017 school year, less than 15 percent of teachers were people of color, compared to the almost 30 percent of non-white students.

“I honestly don’t think it’s an issue in hiring; I think it’s just that teachers [of color] don’t want to work here. If you’re someone who is really close to your cultural roots, why would you want to teach at a place where everyone is very much not like that?” Ma said.

The Human Resource office continually spearheads the effort to increase diversity in Parkway. Working with a team to help come up with recruitment ideas, Parkway reaches out to special candidates through out-of-state recruitment fairs. 

“I never want to be perceived as the African American or black teacher. I want to be perceived as Mr. Young the business teacher, the guy who cares about students and young people,” Young said. “I do recognize the value of being a minority teacher in this school setting because students look for people that they can identify with, and I can see the value in that also,” Young said.

Despite the differing opinions of students, Young believes discussing diversity is crucial to cultivating a community of learners.

“I think it is important that we talk about diversity. Recent events have highlighted that. I don’t think you have to agree with everybody’s perspectives or their cultural beliefs or values or anything like that, but I do think you should always show respect for other people. I think you should be willing to listen and learn from other people. You don’t have to fully embrace or accept it, but I do think you should listen,” Young said.